Swaab – Field of Fire: Diary of a Gunner Officer

Jack Swaab (2005) was a Gunner Officer with the 51st Highland Division from 3 Jan 1943 to the end of World War II. He fought in North Africa, Sicily, Italy, and NW Europe. His book is literally his personal diary. It is interesting to read to get an idea what was on the mind of a literate combat solider, although there are few detailed accounts of action.

The book is available from Amazon USA, UK, and Canada:

Swaab, J. (2005). Field of Fire: Diary of a Gunner Officer. Sutton.

Field of Fire

Order of Battle

The 8th Army at EL ALAMEIN, October 1942 gives the Orbat of the 51st Highland Division (tweaked slightly based on Swaab, 2005): :

51st Highland

    • 51 Recce Battalion
    • 1/7 Bn Middlesex Regiment (machine gun bn)
    • 126 Field Regiment RA
    • 127 Field Regiment RA
    • 128 Field Regiment RA
    • 61 Anti-tank Regiment RA
    • 40 LAA Regiment RA
    • 274 Field Company RE
    • 275 Field Company RE
    • 276 Field Company RE
    • 239 Field Park Company RE
    • 51 Highland Division Signals
    • 152 Infantry Brigade
      • 2 Bn Seaforth Highlanders
      • 5 Bn Seaforth Highlanders
      • 5 Bn Cameron Highlanders
    • 153 Infantry Brigade
      • 5 Bn Black Watch
      • 1 Bn Gordon Highlanders
      • 4/7 Bn Gordon Highlanders
    • 154 Infantry Brigade
      • 1 Bn Black Watch
      • 7 Bn Black Watch
      • 7 Bn Argyll & Sutherland Highlanders

Swaab (2005) served in 491 Battery within 127 Field Regiment RA. From Sep 1944 he was a troop commander and also a Forward Observation Officer attached to 5 Bn Black Watch within 153 Infantry Brigade.

Hubermont (Bastogne Front)

7 Jan 1945

153 Infantry Brigade, 51 Highland Division, attempted to get 116 Panzer Division off some high ground (Swaab, 2005).

12 Jan 1945

As 5 Bn Black Watch advanced from Wavizy with A company in the lead (Swaab, 2005). A Recce armoured car was was knocked out by ample mines around. The battalion then ran into a German force with 140 men, 2 Panthers, spandaus, and a mortar team positioned in some farm buildings (Swaab, says a 50mm but this is unlikely at that date). A Company and Swaab were pinned down so three Allied tanks came up in support, but one was knocked out, another had a jammed gun and engine failure, and the third failed to arrive. Swaab managed to call in fire from 25 pounders and mediums which suppressed the defenders, and allowed B Company to flank them, causing the Germans to retreat.

13 Jan 1945

?? TODO ?? more to come

14 Jan 1945


The 8th Army at EL ALAMEIN, October 1942

Swaab, J. (2005). Field of Fire: Diary of a Gunner Officer. Sutton.

War Diary of the 5/7th Battalion Gordon Highlanders, December 1942 – April 1943.

Haven’t used this, as the period doesn’t match up to interesting bits from Swaab’s diary, but worth looking at some time.

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